|Published||late 17th century|
"Lavender's Blue" (sometimes called "Lavender Blue") is an English folk song and nursery rhyme dating to the 17th century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 3483. It has been recorded in various forms since the 20th century and some pop versions have been hits in the US and UK charts.
Although there are as many as thirty verses to the song, and many variations of each verse, most modern versions take this form:
- Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly, lavender's green
- When I am king, dilly, dilly, You shall be queen
- Who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?
- 'Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so
- Call up your men, dilly, dilly, set them to work
- Some to the plough, dilly, dilly, some to the fork
- Some to make hay, dilly, dilly, some to cut corn
- While you and I, dilly, dilly, keep ourselves warm
- Lavender's green, dilly, dilly, Lavender's blue
- if you love me, dilly, dilly, I will love you.
- Let the birds sing, dilly, dilly, And the lambs play
- We shall be safe, dilly, dilly, out of harm's way
- I love to dance, dilly, dilly, I love to sing
- When I am queen, dilly, dilly, You'll be my king
- Who told me so, dilly, dilly, Who told me so?
- I told myself, dilly, dilly, I told me so
The earliest surviving version of the song is in a broadside printed in England between 1672 and 1685, under the name Diddle Diddle, Or The Kind Country Lovers. The broadside indicates it is to be sung to the tune "Lavenders Green", implying that a tune by that name was already in existence. The lyrics printed in the broadside are fairly bawdy, celebrating sex and drinking. According to the Traditional Ballad Index, "The singer tells his lady that she must love him because he loves her. He tells of a vale where young man and maid have lain together, and suggests that they might do the same, and that she might love him (and also his dog)." Here is the first of ten verses:
Lavender's green, diddle, diddle,
You must love me, diddle, diddle,
cause I love you,
I heard one say, diddle, diddle,
since I came hither,
That you and I, diddle, diddle,
must lie together.
It emerged as a children's song in Songs for the Nursery in 1805 in the form:
- Lavender blue and Rosemary green,
- When I am king you shall be queen;
- Call up my maids at four o'clock,
- Some to the wheel and some to the rock;
- Some to make hay and some to shear corn,
- And you and I will keep the bed warm.
Similar versions appeared in collections of rhymes throughout the 19th century.
Recordings and cultural references
- In 1948, a hit version of the song, sung by Burl Ives, was featured in the Walt Disney movie, So Dear to My Heart and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was Ives' first hit song and renewed the song's popularity in the 20th century. Other hit versions of the song were recorded by Sammy Kaye and Dinah Shore.
- In 1949, Vera Lynn recorded a version of the song.
- In Benjamin Britten's 1954 opera, The Turn of The Screw, the song is sung by the two children, Miles and Flora.
- In 1955, jazz pianist Jack Pleis recorded it for his album Music from Disneyland.
- This song became popular during the late 1950s rock and roll era when it was sung by Solomon Burke. While he did change some of the words, the lyrics are generally the same. Sammy Turner released it in 1959 and it hit number 14 on the U.S. R&B chart and number 3 on the Pop chart. There was also a British single by gravel-voiced singer Tommy Bruce in 1963 which was not a hit. The Fleetwoods also recorded a version of the song.
- In John Updike's 1960 short story, "A Sense Of Shelter," the song is sung to himself by William, the story's protagonist, "...in the slow, over-enunciated manner of the Negro vocalist who had brought the song back this year....." 
- In an episode of U.S. sitcom The Ghost and Mrs. Muir aired in 1969, British child star Mark Lester, playing a visiting English schoolboy (Mark Helmore) sings this song to regular cast member, schoolgirl, Candy, in a dream sequence.
- In 1975, the song was interpreted by Leon Russell and Mary Russell for their Wedding Album. The song was entitled "Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly)".
- In 1983, the rock musician David Bowie sang a couplet from the song as an introduction to his song "Heroes" in the live recording of his Serious Moonlight Tour.
- On their 1985 UK number one album Misplaced Childhood, the British neo-progressive rock band Marillion recorded a song called "Lavender", which had lyrics derived from the folk song and became a number 5 hit on the UK singles chart.
- In 1988, Broadway legend Barbara Cook recorded a version for her The Disney Album.
- In 1989, the song was a prominent motif in M.M. Kaye's children's novel The Ordinary Princess.
- In 1989, it appeared in the horror novel Walkers by Graham Masterton.
- In Brad Fraser's 1989 play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, lyrics from the song are repeatedly sung by the character Benita.
- In 1990, the early music group, The City Waites recorded the original 17th-century bawdy broadside version of 'Lavenders Green, Lavenders Blue' on their album Pills to Purge Melancholy.
- In 1990, The Wiggles recorded this song on their albums The Wiggles and Pop Go the Wiggles. There are two versions of this song. One is sung by Greg Page and the other is sung by Sam Moran.
- In 2010, during episode four of season one called "I Remember Nothing" of the Australian drama series "Spirited", produced by Foxtel, the main protagonist Henry Mallet sings the song to Suzy Darling's young sleeping daughter Verity.
- On the Australian children's TV show Wurrawhy, which began in 2011, is produced by Network Ten and currently airs on Eleven and formerly aired on Network Ten itself, Wubleyoo and Lauren performed a song, with Lauren strummed the Guitar.
- In 2011, Laura Wright recorded a version for her album The Last Rose.
- In 2011, the character Freida Short sings it to Van Alden's newborn baby in the episode "Peg of Old" (Season 2 Episode 7) of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
- In 2012, Alyse Black recorded her rendition of the Sammy Turner version with her band 'Night, Sweet Pea on their album A Little Line of Kisses.
- In 2012, the song made several appearances in the film Christmas Oranges, sung by the protagonist, Rose (Bailee Michelle Johnson).
- In 2015, the song was used again by Disney in Cinderella. It is sung to Cinderella by her mother (Hayley Atwell) when she is a child and later by an adult Cinderella (Lily James) when she's locked in her room by her stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). The film's score uses an orchestral version of the song at various points.
- In 2016, Reinhard Mey recorded a version for his album Mr. Lee.
- I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 265–7.
- The New Yorker, January 16, 1960, p. 29
- The Ghost & Mrs. Muir at the Internet Movie Database
- "Marillion: Misplaced Childhood". Dutch Progressive Rock Page. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
- David Roberts British Hit Singles and Albums, Guinness World Records Limited
- Halliwell, James (1849) "Popular Rhymes & Nursery Tales" Chapter10, p.237.